In June 1983, the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sport announced that Indianapolis was one of the cities being considered as the site for a United States fitness academy. In 1984, the academy staff decided to pursue development in California. Indianapolis business and community leaders, however, made a commitment to go forward with plans for a major center for health and physical fitness research and education.

Exterior view of a curved building with glass block windows.
National Institute for Fitness and Sport, 2004 Credit: Indiana University Indianapolis View Source

The establishment of the National Institute for Fitness and Sport (NIFS) was part of the city’s urban renewal strategy to position Indianapolis as a national and international leader in amateur sports and physical fitness. The institute was a public/private project funded by lilly endowment, inc. ($6 million), the State of Indiana ($3 million), and the City of Indianapolis ($3 million). The $10.5 million center opened on November 1, 1988.

The 117,000-square-foot facility is located near the Indiana University Natatorium on land owned by Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) and leased to NIFS. A not-for-profit organization, NIFS continues to be funded by corporate, agency, and individual contributions.

A doctor takes a man's blood pressure using a cuff. The man has several wires attached to his body to monitor vitals.
Blood pressure monitoring at the National Institute for Fitness and Sport (NIFS), 1991 Credit: Indiana University Indianapolis View Source

The mission of the institute is to be a national center for research, education, and service, through which the latest information on human health, physical fitness, and athletic performance can evolve and benefit both aspiring and elite athletes. The institute is a comprehensive resource for fitness and sports development and human performance research. It partners with IU Executive Health and the Indiana University School Of Medicine to conduct these research projects. The findings for many of them have been published in national peer-reviewed journals and other publications. It also offers a professional staff and extensive health, nutrition, and fitness programs for people of all ages and abilities, and it conducts education and certification programs that draw a national audience.

Revised March 2021

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